After I was robbed and sexually assaulted in 1990, my body, mind and spirit went into overdrive. It’s the fight/flight syndrome that’s common when people experience something horrific whether it be a natural disaster, crime, or any life-threatening event. My nervous system stayed in this perpetual state for 20 plus years which unfortunately led to anxiety and ultimately depression. Sometimes, depression would come first and its ugly cousin anxiety would tag along and show up later. Of course, all this didn’t happen overnight. It crept upon me little by little and by the time our first daughter Morgan was a freshman at University of Georgia, I was literally a basket case on some days. I remember one such UGA parents’ weekend that Mark and I were invited to attend. On the way to Athens in my husband’s truck, I sat beside Mark and begged him to turn around. I was too exhausted to “fake it.” I didn’t want to have to pretend to be a happy, proud, normal mother at the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority event. I was unraveling. He held my hand, told me I was going to be okay, and we made the three-hour drive. I sat shotgun all the while having intermittent crying spells.
I made it through that weekend (barely), and at times had to excuse myself to find a women’s restroom where I could weep. I’d pull myself together and Morgan never knew a thing. Upon arriving back home I made two important decisions. I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist and I started attending yoga classes at the Episcopal Church.
Now, seven years later, I still see that same doctor two times a year for a mental maintenance checkup and am a dedicated yogi. I discovered that what I needed more than anything was to breathe. Yes…breathe. I had essentially held my breath and gasped for breath for two decades due to anxiety and fear to the point my nervous system was in ruins.
What I have learned through yoga is that if we quiet our monkey minds and slow our breath, we can retrain ourselves to be calm in the midst of any storm. We have to learn to be still. That’s hard for the ones of us living with angst, worry, and panic.
Anxiety and panic are not a part of my everyday being anymore. I’m not saying I don’t get overwhelmed. But if I start feeling engulfed with fear and worry , I get myself to a yoga mat. One session of 30 to 60 minutes has a clearing and calming effect. And, of course, the more yoga and meditation you do, the better you rewire your brain and the sympathetic nervous system to find healing.
Yoga has changed my life and it can for you too. The practice of yoga allows us to balance body and mind. It can energize you, align you to attain both physical and emotional pain relief, and open your heart and inner being to find peace. Do you believe you can find peace? I do. But we must commit to seek it every day.